Saturday, January 17, 2009

14 Days with the Acer Aspire One: Day 1

Last semester may have been the worst college semester of my life. The single worst event of that semester of crap was the destruction of my beloved laptop, Big Black Richard. Long story short, Big Black Richard took a dip off a classroom desk, smashed on the linoleum floor, and took all my final papers with it. Tragedy! Absolute tragedy! Luckily, one of the professors I owed a paper to was teaching that class, so he understood my predicament.

I first saw Acer's Aspire One at Staples when I was running in to check on a power adapter for another gadget of mine. It caught my eye as I passed an endcap on the way to the notebook accessories section of the store. It was blue, it was tiny, it was running Windows XP. Home Edition, but still. I did not touch it. I had, at that time, no means of paying for it, and could not afford to become entranced.

Little did I know that I had long had a check coming to me as a refund of some of my educational grant funds. The check had been waiting for me since November, but never got delivered. It's existance was never brought to my attention until I out right asked the financial aid office to check my balance with them. So, I now have some money with which to buy textbooks, and, well... I dearly missed having my laptop by my side, and had been pining over my friend's Eee PC for some time. Until very recently, I hadn't dared dream of spending even $350 on a computer. I can be a cheap bastard sometimes, which makes my compulsion to blog about things like electronics and media somewhat ironic. If I am contemplating a major purchase, it is highly likely that I will consider and debate it so long that the opportunity to make the purchase will pass.

So, after a few days of frantic, obsessive Googling and review-scanning, I decided that it would be better in the long run to simply grab the machine I needed and stop tormenting myself. Today, I went to Staples with every intention of maybe possibly I guess getting and Acer. Once I finally got it home, I immediately set to work setting it up. You know, putting Firefox, AVG, and Launchy on it.

Staples offers a return policy of fourteen days, so long as I have my receipt. Since this is my first time using such a small and strange device long term, I plan to document this probationary period here, updating once daily with my observations of the device.

Let me first tell you this: Like all netbooks, it is tiny. Eensy weensy. It's wider than my friend's Eee PC, but with an 8.9 inch screen, it's still almost half the size of a conventional 15 inch laptop. Since I had previously done all my mobile computing on an ancient Compaq Armada, the size difference is striking to say the least. Of course, one upside to its minute size is its weight, which is about 2.20 pounds. Even the three cell battery is tiny and light! I mean, Christ, look at that. That's a laptop battery, something you should be able to bludgeon a man to death with. It looks like a Charleston Chew!

Getting it set up wire-wise was no problem, naturally. It's got an ethernet port, contrary to some very strange reviews of the product I've read, and the power cable plugs in snuggly with no wiggle to make me paranoid that it will fall out at any given moment. If I'd wanted to use any USB devices, there are three ports crammed onto this tiny chasis, and two card readers. Hell, there's even output for a monitor in case the bitty little screen gets on my nerves.

The Aspire One also has the distinction of actually being a very attractive little device. The model I bought is a deep navy blue with some black, and even some chrome details on the hinges. The hinges are one of the most attractive features of the case design, really, with how they fit together and fold apart. They make the case look as solid and purposely designed as it feels. The power button serves a similarly sexy function, as it is small, lighted, and recessed into the case to prevent accidental pressing. The screen, when it's not on, is highly glossy and looks like a fingerprint magnet if I ever did see one. Better get a dedicated eyeglass cloth. The case itself is just as offensively shiny, making me glad that the computer came with a little case to slip it into whenever it isn't in use.

So far, I've run a series of very simple tests on the Aspire. After five tests, I have devised that it boots in an average of forty seconds, slightly slower than the Eee PC I keep mentioning. Of course, since it's running XP, this is to be expected. Sorry, couldn't help myself. The keyboard presents no problems as of yet, seeing as I've been using the Aspire for about four hours now and noticed no wrist pain or strings of alarming typos. I'm even typing this very blog entry on the little guy.

As for media applications, the reviews I read were very right in one respect: the speakers are, to be generous, absolute dick. They are tinny, they are cheap, and they are too loud. But, there's hope! Headphones! Other media tests included test runs on Youtube and CrunchyRoll, both of which loaded and played without a hitch after the Flash update. In fact, I am at this very moment watching Half-Life: Full Life Consequences in another window entirely.

So, until tomorrow, that is the end of today's Acer Aspire One update.

*goes up to the roof to get motorcycle and normal people close*
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